Tuesday, November 24, 2009

LOST close to home

We recently checked out a little-known nature sanctuary right outside of Antigua in the village of San Cristobal El Bajo. Tucked inside a farm that sustains itself by mining rock, the real passion of El Pilar is preserving the natural enviroment. A first it appears to be nothing more than a large gravel pit, but after paying a 40 quetzal entrance fee you can head a little futher up the hill where you will encounter 3 spring-fed sky-blue pools of varying depths. Beyond the pools is where the real nature experience begins. Upon entering the "reserve" one may happen upon the more than 130 bird species and various wildlife that make their home there. Coffee grows wildly and naturally as the rays of the sun peak through the lush forest ceiling.

After a little chatting with the friendly guard, we learned that El Pilar was originally purchased with the idea of using the majority of the land as a sustainable timber harvest. However the owner soon learned that his purchase was located in a protected area where altering the natural landscape was strictly prohibited. Now 2 generations later, the grandson of the original owner who has an education background in eco-tourism is hoping to develop a minamally intrusive infrastructure throughout the property to help make it more accessible to like-minded nature enthusiasts.

Across a wooden footbridge you'll pass by man-made ponds where tilapia is cultivated. Then down a winding pathway surrounded by lush greens and brightly colored blossoms, there is a hummingbird garden where visitors can spend hours watching and waiting or simply enjoy a picnic lunch. Beyond the bird sanctuary a strenuous 2 kilometer uphill hike weaves up the face of the mountain. At the end of the trail one may continue further down a gravel road that eventaully opens up to a clearing with cabins or head back down the hill either on the path or a winding gravel road.

Our Sunday morning hike really afforded us the much desired calm and quiteness that we often seek away from the loud, busy streets of Antigua below. We only passed 1 other group of hikers along the way. Upon reaching the end of the trail we chose to return on the gravel road to continue exploring some more. Feeling alone in the middle of nowhere made us dream up notions of how we felt like the survivors of a plane crash on LOST. As we descened we could help but get an erie deserted feeling. It felt like we were looking in on the "Others" campsite, while no one was none the wiser. Take a look at what we observed.

This is where the "Others" work

They even drive a similar looking van....

The children must play here. It looks so sterile.

I wonder if anyone saw us watching them have fun?

What do you think? Have you ever been in a place where you felt LOST?

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